Film Review: ‘Nightmare on 34th Street’ Is a Drag

This ambitious English horror anthology is sadly a big ol’ lump of coal in your Christmas stocking.

Christmas thrillers are quite popular these days, as witnessed by the surprising success of last year’s horror comedy Violent Night.

Since telling horror stories is a long-standing English Christmas tradition, one would hope that English filmmaker James Crow’s Nightmare on 34th Street would be a fun addition to the dark holiday viewing list. Sadly, this horror anthology isn’t particularly horrific — bleak might be a more appropriate description.

Crow’s intention with his stories here seems to be directed less on providing thrills and more on pointing an accusing finger at the hypocrisy of “Christmas cheer” and organized religion.

After an opening segment that echoes the “All Through the House” segment from 1972’s superior Tales from the Crypt, the film proper settles down as a decrepit-looking Santa sits next to a kid’s bedside and relates horror stories intended to fill him with dread.

These tales include a visit from the legendary Krampus, an evil puppeteer named Mr. White who is suffering from split personality, choirboys getting their revenge on a priest and the psycho Santa’s own violent backstory.

The film itself offers some striking imagery on what surely was a microscopic budget. Crow does everything — he serves as the writer, director, cinematographer and editor. The only thing he doesn’t provide is the music, which is composed by Pete Coleman and Jeff Kristian. It’s appropriately atmospheric, and you’ve never heard such depressing Christmas carols.

Nightmare on 34th Street is unnecessarily long, running for more than two hours. Evidently a shorter version exists with fewer stories, but this review is based on this cut.

It will be released on digital December 5.

Kurt Gardner


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